A tangy Mexican salad with lots of color and texture, Quick Nopalitos (Cactus) Salad with Citrus Pomegranate Vinaigrette is loaded with flavor and nutrients, and promises to be an interesting addition to your salad repertoire... Will you dare try it?
I love nopalitos (cactus)! Have you seen any of my previous nopales/nopalitos recipes (Vegetarian Tostadas with Black Beans and Nopalitos, Nopalitos and Red Chile Rice Bowls, Low Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice Bowls)?
My previous recipes specify fresh nopales (cactus pads if you're unfamiliar with the ingredient). This Quick Nopalitos (Cactus) Salad with Roasted Peppers and Cotija uses a couple of shortcuts to get it on the table in about 15 minutes +/-!
Nopal/Nopales/Nopalitos: What's the Deal?
So, the terminology can be confusing! "Nopal" is the Spanish word for Opuntia (aka prickly pear cactus). "Nopales" is the pad of the nopal, and is a "vegetable." "Nopalitos" is the name for a dish made with "nopales." Got it?
Nopales contain good amounts of important vitamins and minerals - including vitamins A, B6, C, K, and calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. The high fiber content aids in digestion, and helps the body to feel full (aiding in weight loss). For more on the health benefits of nopales, see 11 Impressive Benefits of Nopales.
Quick Nopalitos (Cactus) Salad with Citrus-Pomegranate Vinaigrette makes a great side dish for Instant Pot Mexican Pulled Pork. Add some tasty Mexican Cilantro Rice to round out the meal! It is also perfect as a light lunch wrapped in a tortilla. Use a slotted spoon to leave the vinaigrette behind...
Making Quick Nopalitos (Cactus) Salad with Citrus-Pomegranate Vinaigrette
NOTE: Make sure your nopales are packed in brine rather than vinegar. Drain and rinse the nopales thoroughly. Don't skip this step! Add to an appropriately sized salad bowl.
Pat dry your roasted peppers (piquillo or roasted red bell peppers). Slice them into manageable pieces, and add to your salad bowl.
Thin slice half of a red onion (shallots work too). Add to the bowl.
Crumble the cotija. Before you add it to the bowl, be sure to reserve a bit for garnish. Don't we love beautiful, colorful food?
Using about 1 cup of cilantro (avoiding stems), chop and add it to the salad bowl. Again, reserve some for garnish!
Lastly, add all of the citrus vinaigrette ingredients to a mason jar or shaker. Shake vigorously to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. If you want a little less tang to your vinaigrette, add a little honey or agave nectar. We like it "as is."
Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, toss to combine, and garnish with the cotija and chopped cilantro. Yes, it's that simple!
P.S. If you prefer to use fresh (and can find it), simply cut it into bite sized strips, and boil it 15-20 to release the gelatinous substance. Drain, and use as you would prepared nopales.